Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Kennewick Man

Study will, finally begin on the Kennewick skeletal material.
Preliminary examination will focus on taphonomic issues:

The researchers plan to do what is called a "taphonomic" examination of the skeleton, taking measurements and making observations about the processes that affect animal and plant remains as they become fossilized. Further study is planned based on the initial findings, Schneider said.

"Taphonomy is really a forensic examination," Schneider said. "You try to determine everything that has affected the skeleton from day of death until you study it."

This sounds to me like the AP writer doesn't know much about anthropology. Several studies have already been made of the skeleton in connexion with the court case and a complete inventory of the material has already been made, which doesn't preclude them from being done again.
Something like the following will probably happen. They will lay all the skletal material out, on a table, in anatomical positition. the bones will be inventoried. Then each bone will be examined for pathology and damage (animal gnawing, damage caused by the fossilization process, etc), then each bone will be measured and the measurements will be compared, later, with measurments in any number of databases. For example, the University of Tennessee houses a large amount of Arikira skeltal material. It also houses a large sample of modern forensic skeletal material. I have been meaning to do a post along these lines so sometime in the next couple of days I put something more indepth up.